President Joe Biden to travel to East Palestine next week, a year after derailment

President Joe Biden walks to board Marine One at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Wilmington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will travel to East Palestine, Ohio, on Friday, about a year after a Norfolk Southern train there derailed and spilled a cocktail of hazardous chemicals that caught fire.

The White House said Saturday the president would travel there to ensure state and local officials “hold Norfolk Southern accountable."

East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway, a conservative who does not support Biden, extended the invitation to the Democratic president, saying the visit will be good for his community.

The Feb. 3, 2023, derailment forced thousands of people from their homes near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Area residents still have lingering fears about potential health effects from the toxic chemicals that spilled in the accident, and from the vinyl chloride that was released a few days after the crash to keep tank cars from exploding.

Biden's decision not to visit the site until now had become a subject of persistent questioning by reporters at the White House, as well as among residents in East Palestine. Some residents have said they felt forgotten as time passed, and they watched the president fly to the scenes of other disasters, including the wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui and hurricanes in Florida.